Understanding the Decline in Social Capital, 1952-1998

47 Pages Posted: 10 May 2001 Last revised: 22 Oct 2010

See all articles by Dora L. Costa

Dora L. Costa

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Matthew E. Kahn

University of Southern California; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: May 2001

Abstract

We evaluate trends in social capital since 1952 and assess explanations for the observed declines. We examine both social capital centered in the community and in the home and argue that the decline in social capital has been over-stated. Controlling for education, there have been small declines in the probability of volunteering, larger declines in group membership, and still larger declines in the probability of entertaining since the 1970s. There have been no declines in the probability of spending frequent evenings with friends or relatives, but there have been decreases in daily visits with friends or relatives. Rising community heterogeneity (particularly income inequality) explains the fall in social capital produced outside the home whereas the rise in women's labor force participation rates explains the decline in social capital produced within the home.

Suggested Citation

Costa, Dora L. and Kahn, Matthew E., Understanding the Decline in Social Capital, 1952-1998 (May 2001). NBER Working Paper No. w8295. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=269545

Dora L. Costa (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Economics ( email )

Box 951477
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1477
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Matthew E. Kahn

University of Southern California ( email )

2250 Alcazar Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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